Charles Harpur

The Dream by the Fountain

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Thought-weary and sad, I reclined by a fountain
At the head of a white-cedar-shaded ravine,
And the breeze that fell over the high glooming mountain
Sang a lullaby low as I gazed o’er the scene.
Long I’d reclined not till slumber came o’er me,
Grateful as balm to a suffering child:
When a glorious maiden seemed standing before me
With a lyre in her hand—O so sounding and wild!

Bright was her brow, not the morning’s brow brighter,
But her eyes were two midnights of passionate thought;
Light was her motion, the breeze’s not lighter,
And her looks were like sunshine and shadow in-wrought.

Never before did my bosom inherit
Emotion so thrilling, such exquisite awe!
Never such wonder exalted my spirit
Before, as did now, through the vision I saw.

Robed for the chase like a nymph of Diana,
Her ivory limbs were half given below—
Bare, that the pure breath of heaven might fan her,
Bare was her bosom of roseate snow.

Then lifting the lyre, and with every feeling
Sublimed as with love, she awakened the strings,
And the while, as it seemed, into being came stealing
The motion and light of angelical wings.

Divine were the measure! Each voice of the wold-wood
Seemed gathering power in their musical thrills—
The loud joy of streams in their strong mountain childhood,
The shouting of echoes that break from the hills;

The moaning of trees all at midnight in motion,
When the breezes seem lost in the dark, with a rare
And sweet soaring spirit of human devotion
All blended and woven together were there.

Then she smiled with a look like the radiance of morning,
When flushing the crystal of heaven’s serene,
Blent with that darkness of beauty, adorning
The world, when the moon just arising is seen.

And repressing, it seemed, many fonder suggestions,
Calmly she spake;—I arose to my knees,
Expectantly glad, while, to quiet my questions,
The wild warbled words that she uttered were these:

“I am the muse of the evergreen forest,
I am the spouse of thy spirit, lone bard!
Ev’n in the days when thy boyhood thou worest,
Thy pastimes drew on thee my dearest regard.

“For I knew thee, ev’n then, in thy ecstacy musing
Of glory and grace by old Hawkesbury’s side—
Scenes that spread recordless round thee, suffusing
With the purple of love—I beheld thee, and sighed.

“Sighed—for the fire-robe of thought had enwound thee,
Betok ning how much that the happy most dread,
And whence there should follow, howe’er it renowned thee,
What sorrows of heart, and what labours of head!

“Signed—though thy dreams did the more but endear thee.
It seemed of the breeze, or a sigh of thine own,
When I swept o’er this lyre, still unseen gliding near thee,
To give thy emotions full measure and tone.

“Since have I tracked thee through less lovely places,
And seen thee with sorrow long herd with the vain,
Lured into error by false-smiling faces,
Chained by dull fashion though scorning her chain.

“Then would I prompt, in the still hour of dreaming,
Some thought of thy beautiful country again,
Of her yet to be famed streams, through dark woods far-gleaming
Of her bold shores that throb to the beat of the main.

“Till at last I beheld thee arise in devotion,
To shake from thy heart the vile bondage it bore,
And my joy gloried out like a morning-lit ocean,
When thy footfall I heard in the mountains once more!

“Listen, belov’d one! I promise thee glory
Such as shall rise like the day-star apart,
To brighten the source of Australia’s broad story,
But for this thou must give to the future thy heart!—

“Be then the bard of thy country! O rather
Should such be thy choice than a monarchy wide!
Lo! ’Tis the land of the grave of thy father!
’Tis the cradle of liberty! Think and decide.”

Joy glowed in my heart as she ceased. Unreplying,
I gazed, mute with love, on her soul-moulded charms.
Deeper they glowed, her lips trembled, and sighing,
She rushed to my heart and dissolved in my arms!

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Charles Harpur